The Clan Forbes


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The Forbeses are Celtic and have held the duthus of Forbes from the time whenO'Conochar "killed the bear" which had made the Braes of Forbes uninhabitable.John of Forbes, first of the name, figured in the reign of King William theLion (1143-1214) when the duthus of Forbes was feudalized. In 1303 AlexanderForbes defended Urquhart Castle against King Edward I of England and was slainwith the garrison.

In 1442 Alexander Forbes of Forbes was made Lord Forbes. John the 6th Lord, wasa favorite of King James V. The 10th Lord, Alexander, was a General under thegreat 17th century Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus.

The family is still represented by Lord Forbes, whose seat is Castle Forbes onDonside.

The Lords Pitsligo are descendents of William, a son of Sir John Forbes ofForbes, who lived in the reign of the 14th century King Robert II. The 4th Lordhad his lands seized by the government after the Battle of Culloden in 1746.

The baronets of Craigievar spring from Patrick Forbes of Corse, armor bearerto King James III. Sir William Forbes, 8th Baronet of Craigievar, succeededas Lord Semphill in 1884. Their seat is the tall, romantic castle of Craigievar.

The Lairds of Culloden are descended from the Forbeses of Tolquhoun who date from1420. Sir Alexander Forbes of Tolquhoun saved the life of King Charles II atthe Battle of Worcester in 1651.

A short history of the Clan Forbes

The name Forbes is a clan-name deriving from a place -- in Aberdeenshire.The clan, however, is almost certainly of Irish/Dalriadic origin, and theirpresence in north-eastern Scotland may have been part of the early Dalriadicpolicy to 'police' the Picts.

The boars' heads on the Forbes coat of arms commemorate the exploit of a distant ancestor who rid their part of Aberdeenshire of a wild boar which wasterrorizing it, and their gathering cry of 'Lonach' is the name of a hill inStrathdon, where the clan assembled in times of trouble. The March of the Forbesmen at the annual Lonach Gathering is now an established part of modern Highland life.

The ancient seat of the chiefs was Druminor Castle, but later it became CastleForbes. The present chief's seat is Balforbes near Craigievar Castle, which is another Forbes castle belonging to the Forbes chieftains who became LordsSempill.

John of Forbes is known to have possessed the Forbes lands in Aberdeenshireas early as the reign of King William the Lion (1165-1212). In 1236 Fergusof Forbes received a charter for these lands from the Earl of Buchan. Alexander de Forbes was made Governor of Urquhart Castle near Inverness anddefended it against Edward I of England in 1204. He was forced to surrenderwith his garrison, but the English put every man alive to the sword afterhaving accepted their surrender.

His son, also named Alexander, supported Robert Bruce and Bruce's son KingDavid II. He was killed in 1332 at Duplin, fighting at King David's side.

Robert Bruce gave the family further lands in Aberdeen, and Sir Alexander de Forbes, who died in 1405, was Justiciar and Coroner of Aberdeenshire. Another Alexander Forbes, chief of the clan, became Lord Forbes around the year 1436, and he married a granddaughter of King Robert III.

The Forbeses seem to have pursued a policy not unlike that of the ArgyllCampbells, in supporting law and order and the established government. In 1488 yet another Alexander, Lord Forbes, furious over the treacherous murderof King James III, who was stabbed to death by a false priest after the Battleof Sauchieburn on 11 June of that year, raised an army to revenge the King. Hecarried the dead King's blood-soaked shirt on the point of his spear and wasonly persuaded to disband his army by the direct intervention of the new King,Jamves IV.

The principal enemies of the Forbeses seem to have been the Gordons-- who were Catholic and rebellious by nature. The Forbeses had accepted thereformed faith. The 8th Lord Forbes married Lady Margaret Gordon, eldest daughter of the 4th Earl of Huntly. Their son turned Catholic and entered a religious order, and Forbes disowned his wife. This led to a clan battle in 1572 at Clatt in Aberdeenshire, in which the Gordons had the better of the day, killing Lord Forbes's brother.

Lord Forbes, however, subsequently married Janet Seton of Touch, and notsurprisingly in 1595 he was one of the lieutenants of the northern countiescreated by the King in order to suppress the 'Popish" Earls of Huntly (Gordon)and Erroll (Hay).

Thereafter the chiefs pursued the Protestant line faithfully and were opposed to Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Catholic Stewarts. Nevertheless, questions ofreligion and of 'rightul' kings cut across ordinary loyalties, and we findthe Forbeses of Pitsligo on the Jacobite side in 1745. After Culloden their chieftain was able to remain a fugitive on Forbes lands until his death fifteenyears later.

The Forbeses of Culloden produced Lord President Forbes, who exerted a powerful influence on many of the clans who were undecided which side to takein 1745. His success in keeping many of them at home, neutral, is said to have contributed considerably to the Government victory at Culloden in 1746. His name, it is nice to be able to say, was and is respected generally throughout the Highlands, even by the most hard-line Jacobites.

The chief of Clan Forbes, Lord Forbes of Forbes, is the premier baron ofScotland.


Taken from "The Scottish Highlanders" by Charles MacKinnon of Dunakin.copyright 1984 in Great Britain.

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